Quality education at Rs 25 a month – BodhaGuru aims to make it possible
Exciting things are happening in the ed-tech space – more applications are being built for smartphones and PCs, more videos are being developed and the gamification of learning is on the rise. However, a large portion of these innovations are restricted to the technology angle of ed-tech as opposed to revolutionizing the learning methodology and content that is taught. Most schools still use the textbook-classwork-homework format to inculcate learning in their students.
Samir Jain of BodhaGuru believes that for a revolution to happen in the K-12 segment, we need to teach our students to apply knowledge effectively. That will be possible only when the learning methodology and content is engaging, easy to understand, practical, holistic and easily accessible to everyone.
BodhaGuru is a social enterprise that creates innovative learning products and platforms for children of ages four to 12. The learning products include immersive mobile based learning apps, interactive books, videos (animated story videos, detailed concept videos) and other content (interactive quiz and picture books) that can work on a range of devices – low end feature phones, Android/Apple/Windows smart phones/tablets, PC and TV/projector.
The platform includes an interactive book platform that can be used by anyone (children, parents, teachers, authors or publishers) to create interactive books for children using a smartphone or a tablet.
From technology to ed-tech
Samir worked for the product development team at Microsoft India Development Center from 2004 to 2011. He has been in the product development field for close to 15 years before starting BodhaGuru. During his tenure in Microsoft, he volunteered to help government/budget schools children learn computer skills as part of the yearly Microsoft Giving Campaign. He then became closely associated with one of these schools and started teaching after work, while his wife Anubha taught dance to students at the same school.
It was the first time Samir was exposed to the many shortcomings of budget and public schools in India.Initially the couple was involved in ad hoc projects for the school such as collecting donations or providing computers. Gradually, they became attached to the students and soon started thinking of building education products for them. After all, Samir was already building products for Microsoft and so was Anubha who had built products for Sasken; they decided to direct their talents towards creating a positive impact in the education space.
The couple knew that technology was the means by which Bodhaguru’s product could scale. They conducted their own research by visiting various budget and government schools to gain greater clarity on the problem. Samir and Anubha realized that a lot of students from the low-income segment could not follow western online education offerings. While much was being done in the high school and higher education space in terms of MOOCs and distance learning,primary schooling was hardly seeing any activity. Also students were moving to the next grade with abysmal knowledge of concepts in the lower grades, hence their foundation was very weak.
Samir left Microsoft in February 2011, and in June 2011, the couple registered their company.Currently,BodhaGuru has an eight-member team and the social enterprise is based in Hyderabad.
Features of the product
- BodhaGuru concentrates on the fundamental concepts for Math, Science and English subjects for students in age group of 4-12 years. They have mapped their content to CBSE, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh Their self-learning methodology is structured in the following format – a short story introduces the concept while weaving in values, a detailed concept video explains the topic with practical examples while circling back to story, practice apps and assessments.Videos are narrated by an Indian speaker and paced to cater to Indian students from all backgrounds and multiple languages (Indian English, Hindi and Telugu to start with).
- Online and Offline presence: The entire content is bundled inside,an Android set-top box for schools that can be connected to any TV/projector or a micro SD card that can be inserted in any Android tablet/smartphone. Individual videos, apps and interactive books are hosted on various platforms like YouTube, PlayStore, etc.
Modes of delivery
BodhaGuru operates through a partnership model. They are working with budget schools, corporates who can sponsor government schools through CSR and social sector partners who are working with government schools or running on-ground learning centres. Samir believes their team’s expertise lies in R&D (technology and content design) and not on delivery of content, hence partnership is key to on-ground reach and scalability. BodhaGuru also earns revenues through their educational product sale, ads (Youtube, educational apps) and paid/in-app purchases.
BodhaGuru has deployed their learning solution in 80+ schools and 30+ learning centers in various parts of the country. Their online channel has 6.4 million views. Recently, they conducted periodic tests of its offerings in 12 shelter homes for street children. After eight months of periodic testing along with regular teacher training, students’ learning levels in Maths and Science went from 8-10% to 55-60%.
The team still tackles a few challenges through their field experience. For instance, teachers who aren’t passionate,hence impacting learning outcomes in children, or reaching rural schools in a cost-effective way and high marketing, R&D costs and smaller product cost.
BodhaGuru is moving towards strengthening its platform, rather than creating newer content on its own. Their vision is to enable others – passionate children, teachers and parents to create, contribute and consume immersive content using smartphones. They also want to build more partnerships to improve penetration of their product so they can reach out to more students (specifically in rural India) who are in need of affordable, enjoyable and self-learning solutions.
Samir and Anubhash are the passion for education and their family has been instrumental in the development of BodhaGuru. Their children constantly give feedback on the apps and content. The husband-wife duo have invested their own funds in their company with help from family and friends and strongly believe that BodhaGuru is capable of providing every child essential learning anytime and anywhere. “One day, every child will be able to get quality education using their parents’ smartphones in less than Rs25per month. This is the dream of Team BodhaGuruand we will surely reach it,” says Samir.